"Do you know if these fresh bay leaves will spoil quickly in the refrigerator?" she asked me.It was late Sunday evening, the market was crowded, and if I didn't hurry, the kids would already be asleep before I got back home.
"I don't know," I said. "I've never bought them before. If you're worried, they probably have dried Bay leaves over in the spice section."
"Well, the last time I was here they didn't have any dried bay leaves," she said.
I didn't know what else to say and I was anxious to get on with my shopping.
She was an older woman with a perfect southern drawl.
She spoke slowly, wistfully almost.
"When I was a young girl," she started, "there was a big branch that bent way over a pond where ducks used to swim."I took a deep breath.
I willed myself to slow down and listen.
"We used to wander down there by that pond," she said, remembering.She tilted her head slightly upwards and looked off to her right as she pulled this place from her past into focus.
"When mama was making a soup or stew, she used to send us down to that branch and ask us to pick her a few of those bay leaves. She never did ask us to pick her a whole bunch like this though."She threw a questioning glance down at the small tub of fresh bay leaves in her hand.
I could read the price. The fresh bay leaves were $1.99.
"Well," I said, trying to be both friendly and comforting, "if you use a few and the rest spoil, the worst thing that can happen is that you'll be out two dollars."She sighed.
"The thing is," she said putting them back, "I don't have anything to use even one of them for right now."I understood her then.
She didn't really need a bay leaf, just someone to talk to.
Someone to hear about that pond with the bent over branch, that special place where the ducks once swam.